Freilyde limped into the study and reported with a gloomy tone, "Your Grace, Duke Kenmays has arrived at Palace Ursa Rex. My father-- I mean, Baron Charade has gone to receive him."

Lorist closed the book in his hand and looked at the boy quietly. "Were you taught a lesson by your father again?"

"No..." Freilyde refused to admit.

"Then what's with the large boot mark on your pants? Apart from me and your father, I doubt anybody else would dare to do that to you. Tell me what you did this time to earn your father's wrath." Lorist could tell from how Freilyde looked that he had obviously been harshly beaten by Charade.

"Well, Your Grace... Young Master Anderbael and I were just coloring the smaller bear sculptures grey-white and we pushed them to the middle of a pavement. My father didn't pay attention to it and tripped badly, so he was really mad," conceded Freilyde.

"Pffft..." Lorist stifled his laughter with his hands. Charade's second son had a really easygoing personality. He wasn't as serious as Reidy, as studious as Howard, nor as reliable as Jinolio. He was nothing more than a curious child that was slightly hyperactive and wanted to try everything out once. Perhaps it was thanks to being spoiled by Engelich, Charade's father-in-law, since a young age, that he became a child so fearless.

The academy head of Nico Academy, Telesti, mentioned that though his innate personality was kind, his curiosity was far too heavy. He was also said to be filled with courage and was the biggest troublemaker in school, making him the biggest threat the instructors had to watch out for.

That was why when they heard that Freilyde was going to be made attendant of Lorist, the instructors of Nico Academy cheered with glee, though, they were quite disappointed that their colleagues at Dawn Academy wouldn't have to suffer the pain they did.

When he first came to Lorist's side, he felt a little timid, given that he was in a new place and Reidy and Jinolio were there. Even though he was only 16, he had already awakened his battleforce. And given his bright personality and tough build, Reidy and Jinolio liked him quite a lot and would often give him pointers on what to look out for as Lorist's attendant.

But since returning to Palace Ursa Rex, Reidy brought Jinolio to Firmrock to further train in the Dan Ocean Ki-refining Technique, so Freilyde was free to roam without supervision. Lorist wouldn't be paying attention to his every move anyway, so he went all out. And somehow, he got along well with Anderbael te moment they met and played together all the time, causing much chaos and unrest at the palace.

And then began Freilyde's tragedy.

As House Norton's chief minister, Charade would often seek Lorist out to discuss matters when he returned to the palace. Freilyde's actions didn't escape his notice and though Lorist wasn't too willing to go all out to educate Freilyde, Charade didn't hold such reservations. His punishment was the harshest it could get. Nowadays, Freilyde would always act like a timid mouse whenever he saw his father.

"Anderbael ran away first, right?" asked Lorist.

Lorist suspected the reason his son always had so much fun with Freilyde was because there was always someone there to bear the consequences. Even though Freilyde's so largely built, he didn't really have good observation, so who else but him to take the blame when there was trouble? That was probably what Anderbael was thinking.

"Yes... Young Master is..." Freilyde failed to come up with a reason to speak on Anderbael's behalf. The moment Charade tripped, Anderbael had run away immediately but Freilyde stopped to help his father up, only to get a beating in return.

Lorist pulled on the bell rope beside the wall and Patt, the leader of the guards, soon arrived.

"Go and fetch Anderbael and bring this fellow to the yard. Have the both of them stand in the horse stance for half an hour. Don't forget to put a bowl of water on each of their shoulders and ask them to do it over if the water tips over. Give Anderbael three canes to the rear as well and tell him that he should take the blame with his comrades if he did something wrong instead of escaping alone," instructed Lorist.

"Understood, Your Grace." Patt took the crestfallen Freilyde away with him.

Moments later, Charade came to Lorist accompanied by Kenmays. Given how unkempt Charade's clothes were and the slight red flush on his face, it could be seen how mad he was to be tripped by his child's antics.

But what piqued Lorist's curiosity was Kenmays instead. He brought a few large boxes into the study and instructed the servants to arrange them properly before asking them to leave. Only after that did he breathe a sigh of relief.

"Aha, my brother, you are far too generous, for you to bring me so many gifts," said Lorist intentionally. He knew that those were probably not gifts. Dukes like them usually brought each other a list of the gifts instead of bringing the boxes straight to the other person like a savage.

"In your dreams," Kenmays retorted, "There aren't gifts. Locke, I've decided to go to Flowater Creek and the boxes here contain the competing products of your enemy, Andalou. I brought them here for you to expand your horizons.

"Also, I heard that our emperor has ordered Flowater Creek to be rented to Andalou. A market will soon be built there. It's obvious that they're trying to compete with Jillin Harbor, which your house technically owns. Be it place or accessibility, Flowater Creek holds the advantage. Given that they have the emperor's support, don't you worry that the market at Jillin Harbor will suffer?"

Lorist smiled and shook his head. "I don't have to worry about this. Even though the trading point at Flowater Creek took up quite a bit of our sales volume, only raw materials and mineral ores are affected. On that front, but of us are taking huge losses to the benefit of the landed nobles that have these resources.

"But when the nobles gain more money, it'll benefit the market as they'll increase their purchases of other products. Andalou trying to start a market there is only them trying to get a piece of the pie. As for the nobles, they will still consider quality and price before they make their purchases."

Lorist was quite confident on that front. House Norton produced lots of products of varying types and also enjoyed the benefit of maritime transportation. Lorist believed that Andalou, who still relied on importing products from the Trade Union through land, wouldn't be able to compete with House Norton in terms of quality and cost.

"You're too confident, Locke," Kenmays said with a shake of his head, "Andalou isn't going to fight your house in the market of daily necessities. They chose to compete in high fashion and luxury goods."

Kenmays walked to the side of one box and opened it, bringing out an intricate-looking golden bowl, a golden plate, goblet, and so on. Soon, Lorist's desk was filled with golden dinery.

"Each set of 40 to 50 golden dinery cost me 70 thousand gold Fordes," boasted Kenmays gleefully.

"Are you crazy?" Charade jumped with shock and exclaimed, "Give me 20 thousand and I'll have someone make the exact same ones for you."

"Fool," snorted Kenmays. He held a golden plate up and ran his finger across the intricate engravings. "Look at these engravings and the brand on the bottom of the plate. See who made this set before you say something as stupid as making them for me at the cost of 20 thousand. These are no ordinary dining ware. I'm not just a rich fool, you know."

Lorist took a bowl and turned it over, only to see a rhombus-shaped signature which read Blueway.

"Blueway? This name sounds familiar," said Charade as he looked at the back of the plate he held.

"Hehe, do you remember the duchy of Zikdor?" asked Kenmays.

What does this have to do with Zikdor? Lorist turned the bowl in his hand around and didn't see anything that suggested any affiliation with the duchy.

Charade on the other hand widened his eyes with realization. "You mean the duchy famed for making gold and silverware? Weren't they eliminated by the Trade Union during the war in the midsouthern area? I think Mayflower's kingdom is founded on the territory that used to belong to Zikdor. The Zikdor we helped found again in the neighboring province of the Trade Union is headed only by the duke's nephew. He inherited the position of the current duke of Zikdor."

"The duchy you helped revive is completely different from the old one," Kenmays said without holding back, "Back then, Zikdor was famous for their gold and silverware. Blueway represents the most elite smithing family of the duchy. They produce less than ten such sets and the demand for their work is always through the roof. For the past two centuries, having a set of Blueway-made dining ware is something worth bragging about for a noble house.

"What I didn't think was that the Trade Union would manage to take the Blueway family for themselves after exterminating the duchy and gain control of their production line. They are no different from a tree that grows money. Locke, the glass dining ware produced by House Norton is indeed refined and intricate. But compared to those produced by the Trade Union's Blueway family, it still falls short. I believe that most imperial nobles will think the same as me and will be willing to buy a set of Blueway dining ware to be passed down through their family."

Lorist's expression turned serious. Kenmays was right; even though the dominion produced lots of different products and occupied most of the market for daily necessities on the continent, those were made for the common consumer. They weren't trendy or luxurious items.

The Trade Union had chosen to use history and branding as their weapons against House Norton and made a good move. House Norton only started to rise after Lorist returned to The Northlands after all. Even though the house had a history of three centuries, they had been a rather mediocre noble house at the empire's northern border during that time and didn't expend any effort on anything other than surviving.

"What else are in those boxes? Take them all out," said Lorist.

There were luxurious and expensive rugs, fine branded wine of the Petrin duchy, intricate jewelry from the kingdom of Abotan, as well as many famous branded products from nations wiped out by the Trade Union. Lastly, Kenmays brought out an odd-looking sculpture.

"What is this?" asked Lorist curiously. It depicted a voluptuous woman and a lanky man entangled together in a weird pose, giving others an uncomfortable vibe.

"Hehe, this is the magnum opus of the famous artist from five centuries ago, Carmen Sytoff. Well, a replica of it anyway. I spent 50 thousand gold Fordes to get my hand on this. Just look at how natural the curves on this is. This completely shows that women embody the essence of victors instead of men," said Kenmays with a sudden hipster-like expression.

Doesn't this just mean that women can go on all night while men tire out first? Lorist didn't know how to react at the sight of Kenmays caressing the sculpture of a man and woman so lovingly. "Alright, nobody will take your precious thing from you. Only a guy like you fancies these things anyway. Spending 50 thousand gold Fordes on a thing like this... do you have too much money or something?"

"Locke, you simply don't get it. This is art," said Kenmays, dissatisfied that Lorist was treating his treasure like a toy.

"Your Grace..." Charade spoke when he looked at the study that was piled up with products.

Lorist knew what he was going to say and shook his head with a smile. "No worries. Andalou's products won't have a huge effect on our own in Jillin Harbor. Perhaps there will be short term effects, but in the long term, it shouldn't matter. We provide daily necessities after all while they sell luxury goods which fetch high prices but has low overall demand."

"Aren't you worried that His Imperial Majesty would use this chance to put pressure on the market at Jillin Harbor? He might use this as an excuse to reclaim the rights to that place," said Kenmays.

"Relax, he won't dare to do it," Lorist said confidently, "Even though our emperor thinks himself smart to provide raw materials and mineral ores for Andalou and cancelled the business deal he has with our house, he still requires the cash from the food grown throughout the empire which is sold at Jillin Harbor to keep the empire functioning. He wouldn't touch Jillin Harbor before Andalou is able to provide him with a steady income stream."

Kenmays breathed a sigh of relief. "I can rest assured with what you just said. You should know that our salt merchant committee is the largest trading company in the empire and the competition between your house and Andalou allowed us to earn 30 percent more profit this year. Our fleets are doing our best to purchase the raw materials and ores from the nobles to resell them at Jillin Harbor or Flowater Creek. As long as you keep this up, I'm going to expand the scale of the purchases of the committee next year."

"The prices shouldn't change much," Lorist said, "We're in a hard position to step down from. Let's see who caves in first. In fact, I would rather you sell your goods at Flowater Creek to drain away the cashflow of Andalou."

Kenmays nodded and said, "Understood."